Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Score on the Shore

Robbie and I, once again, decided to spend the day birding. Since Robbie lives out in the Valley (a good 45 minutes away from my house in Cloverdale) and doesn't have access to shoreline where she lives, I thought it would be nice to include one or two of them today.

We started with Surrey Lake. The last time I was here, I saw a Belted Kingfisher hovering over the center of the lake. Sadly, I grabbed my binoculars instead of my camera and missed a great opportunity to photograph that unique behavior. We were hoping to see the Belted Kingfisher today.

When we arrived, at shortly after 8AM, there was a wispy fog hanging over the lake. It was beautiful and calm; the grassy marshes, trees, and skies were alive with bird songs and calls.

The Canada Geese were just arriving and the Great Blue Herons were lobbying for spots along the waters edge.

We saw many songbirds in the grassy marsh, including the Song Sparrow. In the trees, were American Robins, Northern Flickers, and Spotted Towhees.

Once we were satisfied that we had exhausted all the birding opportunities at this location, we moved on to Blackie Spit, in South Surrey. Back on September 5th, I was visiting one of my favorite birding sites, Birding in British Columbia. It was there, in the 'Bird Forum', where I had read about the Marbled Godwit and Long-Billed Curlew sighting. I visited Blackie Spit on September 6 and again on the 26th and both times, I never saw the pair.

Today, however, that all changed! 2 new Lifers! Behold the Marbled Godwit and the Long-Billed Curlew 'couple':

We also saw many young Great Blue Herons fishing near the shore.

The tide was way out, turning Mud Bay into one giant spit. Here is Robbie, scanning the landscape for sandpipers. Notice how she's staying away from the mud this time?

Since our appetites were growing, we decided to head into Ladner for some lunch. We stopped at ABC Country Restaurant for a tastey Thai Chicken Salad and then continued on to Westham Island, to the George C. Reifel Migratory Bird Sanctuary.

At this location, we saw many Mallards (in various stages of molt), a family of 5 Sandhill Cranes, flocks of Dowitchers and Lesser and Greater Yellowlegs, several more male and female Wood Ducks, American Coots, Great Blue Herons, and my first American Wigeon.

The Sandhill Cranes, taking flight.

Often, I wondered why the feeders at the Sanctuary were almost always empty. This is likely why...

We observed many Black-Capped Chickadees, Red-Winged Blackbirds, and, of course, Canada Geese.

All in all, it was an awesome day, with three new lifers to celebrate.

As always, we would like to extend a warm thank you to all of the birds of Surrey Lake, Blackie Spit, and Westham Island...for allowing us to observe them on this day.

Wordless Wednesday

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Mute Swan: Friend or Foe?

The Mute Swan was introduced into North America by Europe and Asia in the late 1800's, to grace the ponds of parks, estates, and zoos.

For some, the Mute Swan's beauty, its ability to float lightly on the water, and its tendency to mate for life have resulted in it being used as a symbol of grace, love, and fidelity, and an omen of good luck for sailors. For some, it has religious symbolism as well.

In reality, a single Mute Swan is said to consume up to 8 lbs of vegetation a day and uproot another 20 lbs during the feeding process. This results in loss of habitat and a key food source for other waterfowl and aquatic species, including fish.

In some areas, like the Atlantic Flyway, provincial wildlife management agencies are calling for a coordinated plan to reduce populations by 2013.

The Mute Swan population has not expanded into Western Canada, at this time. On this day, at Lost Lagoon in Vancouver's Stanley Park, I saw only a pair, including this one. Most recently, I did see another single out at Westham Island (See that BLOG post HERE). It's hard to believe these beautiful birds pose a threat to others. What do YOU think?

For specific information about the Atlantic Flyway Mute Swan Management Plan, visit HERE

For more information about Swans in Canada, visit HERE

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Monday, September 21, 2009

Last Day of Summer: Celebrating Shorelines

What better way to spend the last day of Summer than celebrating our local shorelines! In my case, I decided to start with Blackie Spit, at Crescent Beach (In South Surrey).

I awoke before sunrise and quickly packed up all my gear for the day. I was out the door before 7AM, heading South to Crescent Beach, stopping briefly for an XL Double Double at my local Tim Horton's.

As I was winding through the final stretch to Crescent Beach, I noticed a number of movie location signs nailed to telephone poles and sign posts. Oddly, the signs were pointing towards Blackie Spit. As I pulled up , I was stopped by security at the gate. I explained to a burly female guard that I was planning on photographing shorebirds today; pointing to the distant shoreline. She reluctantly let me through, after I assured her I wasn't there to stalk movie stars (unless it was Robert Pattinson...then all bets were off - LOL)

I parked, grabbed my gear, and headed for the shore. I was about midway to the spit when I noticed footsteps behind me. I turned to see a security guard standing on the path, watching me. "Gahh, this is going to be fun", I thought to myself.
I walked to the peak of Blackie Spit and peered through my binoculars. Soon, the security guard was a distant memory. I stood for a while, scanning the Bay when I heard the first huge fish jump...and then another....and then another. They were leaping right out of the water. While I was waiting for the next fish to jump, I noticed something moving in the water and then quickly disappear below the surface. I waited for a moment...and then SPROING! Up came a Common Loon:

While I was photographing this Loon, I noticed soft chirping nearby. Finally, I spotted the source. It was a very chubby Semipalmated Sandpiper:

Similar to my last visit to the Spit, I noticed a lot of activity on the adjacent shore. I was shocked when I looked through my binoculars to find a flock of Great Blue Herons in the distance. There were so many so I decided to count them - 26 in total, including 4 on the Blackie Spit side, perched on posts near the old wooden railway tracks. In this shot of the adjacent shore, you can see 14. Note to self: Get a better camera AND a scope!

Since my camera is rather low in the magnification department, I did what every normal person would do. I high-tailed it to the adjacent shore, in an effort to get a closer look at the "herd".

In less than 30 minutes, I was parking my car at the foot of the East Delta Dyke Trail at Mud Bay. I quickly ran up the trail to the crest, with binoculars in hand. In this shot, you can see Blackie Spit (and the movie trailers) on the adjacent shore, along with a Great Blue Heron, preening.

I walked for quite a while along the East Delta Dyke Trail, walking out to the shoreline once I had passed the Wildlife Boundary Marker.

It was so peaceful, with lots of shorebird activity...until...the Amtrak passenger train rolled through. My "mellow had been harshed". Birds flew off and I was left there, alone, on a cold rock. It was time to go.

On my way back to the car, I noticed this lonely Bull Thistle buzzing with fat bumblebees. This one fuzzy bumblebee was nestled in, enjoying his breakfast. Soon, this Bull Thistle will melt into the landscape as the colder months approach.

I was almost at the car when I noticed a mass atop a nearby power pole. I went over to investigate. Perched, was a gorgeous Red-Tailed Hawk, scanning the field for a snack.

So, all in all, it was an exceptional morning. I think every morning should start this way!